PHILADELPHIA - It was not a work of art by any means, but sometimes good teams have to find a way to grind out a victory. For the No. 7 University of Pennsylvania men's lacrosse team, that came into play Saturday as the Quakers were able to edge Brown, 9-8, in a game that gave them a winning Ivy League record for 2006 and was critical to their NCAA postseason hopes.
Penn (9-2) finishes the Ivy League at 4-2, its best mark in the Ancient Eight since 1989. In addition, the Quakers have won nine games for the first time since the 2002 team went 9-4. By contrast, Brown moved to 2-8, 0-3 in the Ivy League with the loss.
However, this game was a typical conference affair, tense and close all the way. In the end, Penn's 5-0 third quarter proved to be the decisive factor -- Brown had entered the half up 6-4, and got two goals back from the Quakers' three-goal lead in the final quarter, but ultimately could not break even down the stretch thanks to some clutch Penn defense.
James Riordan got things rolling in the first quarter, scoring an unassisted goal just 2:34 into the game, but that was answered by Brown's Will McGettigan less than two minutes later. More than six minutes went by before Drew Collins scored off a Riordan feed for Penn, but McGettigan knotted things up again and the first quarter ended with the score tied, 2-2.
Brown's Jeff Hall and Penn's Luke Dixson traded goals in the first four minutes of the second quarter, before David Madeira gave the Bears a 4-3 lead on an unassisted goal with exactly 10 minutes left in the half. More than five minutes passed before Pat Ryan doubled Brown's lead. Riordan knotted his second of the day, but that was answered in the final minute by Brown's Tyler Gaffney, and the Bears went into the halftime break up, 6-4.
The third quarter was all Penn, and the goals came in a hurry once the Quakers got the lead. David Cornbrooks scored the first two goals of the stanza to tie it, the second one an absolute rocket from up top that found the lower right corner off a D.J. Andrzejewski pass with 6:24 to play. Three minutes went by before J.J. Lian gave Penn the lead; after missing a good opportunity from the right side, the Quakers went right back to him and this time he made good. Just seven seconds after Lian's goal, Alan Eberstein won the faceoff and found Andrzejewski to double the lead to 8-6. Less than two minutes after that, Riordan notched his third off a Craig Andrzejewski pass, and suddenly it was 9-6 Penn.
In the fourth quarter, nearly eight minutes went by before either team scored, and it was Brown who dented the net when Alex Buckley finished a feed from Kyle Wailes. Less than a minute after that, Madeira scored off a pass from McGettigan, making it a one-goal game.
Down the stretch, Brown had chances as Penn's shots were saved -- Brown goalkeeper Nick Gentilesco finished with 11 on the day -- or the Quakers turned the ball over. In fact, Brown had the ball for most of the final three minutes of the game, but Penn's defense held strong. Gregory Klossner came up with three of his five saves for the day in the final stanza, including his last one in the final minute, and after a Penn turnover Brown turned it right back in the final few seconds. That allowed Patrick Rogers to fire the ball into the air and let the clock tick off.
Penn is back in action a week from Sunday, hosting Robert Morris in the final home game of the regular season. Faceoff next Sunday is noon.